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Stalin: A Biography Paperback – Unabridged, 2 Sep 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; 1 edition (2 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330419137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330419130
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 12.7 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 872,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


..offers a more dynamic and complex figure than previous biographies.. Here in unprecedented detail, is an authoritative account -- Mail on Sunday

This is a meticulous and important book -- Sunday Times

a masterly biography..Authorative and compelling -- Daily Express

Book Description

The highly acclaimed biography of the terrifying and fascinating Russian leader, Stalin, written by one of our greatest contemporary historians of Russia and author of the bestselling Trotsky, Lenin and Comrades. --This text refers to the Digital Download edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Stalin has had more biographies than even the most dedicated russophile would care to read. So why read this one?
Well, many of Stalin's biographies are warped by the context they were written in. During the cold war the history of Stalin became a battleground in itself, with historians either portraying him either as a crazed bureacrat, a monster, or nigh on a God.
Service makes use of newly available evidence and weaves together a balanced, clear and comprehensive portrait of Stalin. More than any other biography of Stalin I've read it provides a rounded portrayal of this most controversial of figures. However, whilst being dispassionate helps Service cooly analyse his subject, this also leads to this biography being somewhat dry.
If you want to gain a thorough understanding of Stalin without worrying the autor has a hidden agenda, this biography is unsurpassed. However, if you want to get a feel for the warped version of reality that characterised life close to Stalin, and prefer something a bit more readable, Simon Sebag Montefiore's book 'Court of the Red Tsar' may be a better choice.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Allegedly written using new and previously unused material, despite the fact that a look at the notes shows almost 80 percent secondary sources. The chapter titled "the big three" was particularly poor in this respect, as it relied almost entirely on Churchill's memoirs which if I am not mistaken were written after both Roosevelt and Stalin were dead, thus making it a suspect source of information by itself. The book is a biography NOT a general history of Soviet Russia, and must be treated as such, however I would have liked more detail regarding the second world war which seemed very briefly dealt with.
The book goes into great detail when it comes to his youth and his earlier involvement with the Lenin's ilk. Service does away with the myth that Stalin was the unremarkable dullard and bureaucrat who's ascension could not have been predicted.
Stalin was an intellectual, despite having very few original ideas of his own, and although not feared for suspicions of "Bonepartism" as Trotsky was, it would be wrong to suggest the Great Terror and other incidents of moments of brutal repression could not have been predicted in those early stages. Stalin was ruthless from the beginning. Stalin's leadership style is also put into a new perspective. Whereas Ian Kershaw characterises Hitler as a Weberian "charismatic authority" figure in contrast with Stalin's "bureaucratic authority"; Service's analysis of Stalin makes him appear far closer to Hitler as is often imagined. This characterisation is more in line with the sociologist Ivan Szelenyi.
It is the best Stalin biography I have read so far, even if it could have been a lot longer in places.
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A Kid's Review on 1 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
There are a lot of reviews on which say things I would want to put in a review. So why add another?

One writer says the book leaves him with the question as to whether Marxism as a creed has any merit, and wishes Service had addressed this, while acknowledging it was outside his scope.

This is a big question. Another reviewer complains that Stalin's split with Trotsky is not adequately covered. Equally Service's book on Lenin doesn't really say much about Stalin or Trotsky, and I get the feeling you have to read all three to get Service's full picture of the Russian Revolution. Perhaps the Trotsky book which I haven't yet read gives clues to his views on Marxism.

Another reviewer complains that this book can't be read without a prior knowledge of Russia. I'm sure he's right and would recommend Pipes' general history of Russia and perhaps Marx's 1844 manuscripts and Lenin's `State and Revolution'.

However what Service does do is provide a balanced political biography. At all times Service is trying to arrive at a fair picture of what Stalin did politically and how this sat with the situation he was in.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book for me was his relationship with Lenin. He clearly adored Lenin. Stalin had some exceptional personal qualities, including enormous self-discipline, great capacity for hard work, and quite a sophisticated and flexible intellect. He was able to appreciate the work of the revolutionary (in a non-political sense) thinker Bogdanov whose subtleties escaped Lenin.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this excellent biography of Stalin, Robert Service provides an informative and balanced account with a high level of readability.

The inescapable conclusion is that Stalin was a suspicious and aggressive "Gang Boss", selecting his gang members, and deciding who would join and who would leave. He also informed them of who their enemies were.

Massive violence didn't worry him at all if it enhanced his power and removed his real, potential or imagined enemies, and he retained a direct oversight of the killings which proceeded on an epic scale with something like 15.000.000 mostly Russian and Ukrainians being killed from 1917 onwards by the Cheka/NKVD, in the Gulag death camps and in artificial death famines (see Google "Holodomor, Kaganovich").

Service shows that Stalin was a master of power relationships, for example playing Lenin's chosen successors off one against another while building his own Secretariat power base including future figures like Molotov and Kaganovich and gaining sufficient power to finally attack his erstwhile colleagues. The author makes the point that unlike Trotsky, Stalin wasn't an intellectually superior "distant" leader and had a habit of close contact with direct rewards for his followers, which is not to say that he didn't have a considerable intellectual capacity. He was well read but understated his ability for political advantage.

The book also interestingly covers the cult status of Lenin developed by Stalin with himself as the high priest.
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